Shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow
If you ride in a compact group, then you will often touch each other. If you are smart you will lean with your shoulder or elbow against one another. That way the two of you are more stable and your handle bars will not interlock.
Not shy away
For some of us, body contact on the bicycle feels awkward, often unconsciously. It feels scary or inappropriate to touch one another. If they ride side by side and come too close to one other, they lean away. Leaning away, however, is dangerous! You may become unbalanced and your handle bars may interlock.
If you touch each other, you can avoid interlocking your handle bars by pushing yourself with elbow and shoulder away from the other, and lean against each other. Try leaning against each other deliberately. And then steer away. Staying close together will help.
Exercise prolonged leaning. Try to relax, you’ll notice that it’s getting easier and your corrections will become smaller and smaller. On a stretch of road, for instance with the straight headwind, you can reduce the combined frontal surface by leaning, and, in one way or another, you’ve become a ‘lateral tandem’. Quite a nice feeling when the two of you become one.
Professional races may be filmed from a helicopter. Especially in the final kilometers on the way to a final sprint you may very well see how much leaning and touching there is, using shoulders, elbows, or with a hand on the back. The term ‘butting’ is coined to this. That word is far too negative for what happens, making sure no accidents happen at a raging pace while fighting for your position. It’s nice to see how this ‘blind rage’ in the legs can go together with a cool head to prevent accidents from happening. Keeping a clear head in all this mayhem is the sign of a true professional.
In the video below you see Matthieu van de Poel putting a hand on Sinkeldam’s back to signal him that he was coming. In full final sprint! Beautiful and competent solved by both riders. There was also no (request for) disqualification or discussion afterwards.
Quite often it is convenient to push. If someone is suffering, you not only offer moral support, but also helps him directly.
In a double echelon, sometimes someone struggles through the wind to take the lead. The next man or woman pushes him quietly to the lead and then immediately takes the lead himself. Pushing also needs to be learned. When pushing, you should not push to the side. Not only will you push the other away from you, but you yourself will deviate the other way. So, you push him or her as much as possible in the middle of the lower back. That way, you form a so-called Russian echelon.
See also: Echelons